Filipinos love telling stories in different forms and medium, ever since ancient times. When it comes to Filipino movies and TV shows, we are more used to seeing a different kind of fare in mainstream media, especially on global platforms such as Netflix. Because of this, Netflix’s “Trese” is a triumph of a different kind as it gives Philippine mythology and urban legends, Philippine comic book creators, Philippine and Fil-Am talents, and Manila itself an interesting spotlight.
The series is based off of the award winning comic book series of the same name written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo. For the Filipino dub, the cast features the voices of Liza Soberano, Simon dela Cruz, Apollo Abraham, Eugene Adalia, Cheska Aguiluz, Jose Amdao Santiago, Christian Velarde, R.J. Celdran, etc. While the English dub’s cast includes Shay Mitchell, Griffin Puatu, Matt Yang King, Jon Jon Briones, Carlos Alazraqui, Nicole Scherzingher, Manny Jacinto, Dante Basco, Steve Blum, Lou Diamond Phillips, etc. Each episode is around thirty minutes long, and the first season ran for six episodes.
Set in the streets of the capital city of the Philippines, Metro Manila, the first season of “Trese” follows the exploits of Alexandra Trese (Liza Soberano/Shay Mitchell), the babaylan-mandirigma (healer/priestess-warrior) who protects the human world from supernatural entities that cause harm to humans, and who also tries in helping to keep the these two worlds in check. Helping her out are her bodyguards Crispin and Basilio, aka the Kambal (Twins); Hank, the bartender of Cafe Diabolical, the cafe that the family owns and where Trese lives as well; a fire entity called Santelmo; and Captain Guerrero, Trese’s very own Jim Gordon, who is a good friend of her late father.
The show is episodic in format, with each episode giving viewers a new case that Trese has to solve, which, at the same time helps in terms of world building, as viewers get to experience new horrors and monsters every time. The entire show has an underlying storyline that runs throughout the season, coming to a culmination at the sixth episode. Interspersed within each episode are flashbacks which somewhat show the viewers how Trese herself came to be, and her complex relationship with her late father, Anton Trese, from whom she inherited her job from.
I only watched the Filipino dub, so I can only really comment on the Filipino dub version of the show.
I really liked the fact that they used pretty deep Tagalog words for the show, and I opted to watch it in Filipino as I do believe that a lot of nuance and meaning gets lost in translation with an English translation. I also opted to watch it without the Tagalog subs, as the subs were in more simplified Tagalog from what was being said on screen, and for me, it was strangely jarring. I also know that many people had a problem with Soberano’s more “monotone” voice, but I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt as the creators did choose her for a reason, and since Trese’s character seemed to be more serious in nature, I didn’t have any problem with that. I also feel that Trese’s character will be more explored in future seasons, if there will be, and along with that, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to see more nuance in her voice acting as Trese’s own character develops. However, I think that my favorite characters, hands down, are The Kambal!
Story telling and character development wise, while I felt that there was a good deal of world building and exposition and emotional pay off, I wondered if there could have been more that could have been done with the main villain of the season. Although he was a tough opponent, he doesn’t have the ultimate final boss kind of feel to him. However, as I am not very familiar with the Trese comics, I am not sure if there are other bigger villains that they have to face off with in the future.
One of the things that I also loved was that throughout the whole season, the very Filipino value of the strength of family ties is very much present here, regardless whether it be by blood or not, and resonated all the way until the end. Aside from that, some of the cases also touch on societal issues that still resonate today.
As a Filipino, I absolutely loved seeing Metro Manila in animated form, and it also made me miss going out and about the streets of Manila, despite the humidity and heat. Aside from this, I loved seeing creatures that haunted us in our childhood thanks to stories from our nannies or elders in animated form- from the Nuno sa Punso, Manananggal, Aswangs, Kapres, Tiyanak, Tikbalang and more. I think though, that my favorite entities would be the wind people.
“Trese” is definitely a great way to showcase Filipino culture and pop-culture while showcasing local talents, and it gives Filipinos everywhere a sense of pride that something as mainstream as this can penetrate the global consciousness. For Filipinos, it’ll definitely give them a sense of nostalgia, not just with the animated scenes of Manila, but to the untold horrors of the night we were all warned about as kids. It’s not perfect, but it does give Filipinos the representation it sorely needs in mainstream media.
The show definitely only scratches the surface of the world that Tan and Baldisimo created, and this first season makes me want to finally grab a copy of the source material itself.
(Also, is it just me, or did you also crave for some Choc Nut after watching the show?)
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
Since I talked at length about the show itself, I’ll be talking more about the main storyline here.
I found it very interesting that they did the flashbacks in black and white, but I liked how it contrasted with the present day scenes that were done in color, and I liked how it was able to explain how Alexandra got to this point, and how they also met the Kambal. Seeing the council of all the entities got me curious about each one of them, and I do hope that they get more screentime in the future.
I think one of the saddest parts in the entire season was the death of Captain Guerrero, as he was such a main figure in Trese’s life with her father gone. I wish we could have had him for one more season, but I am also glad that we were able to get to know him a lot as the episodes went along, and that episode with the zombies attacking the police station really highlighted his character well. If there are future seasons, I do hope that Sergeant Tapia’s role gets more expanded, and becomes the Captain Guerrero for her moving forward.
I thought that Datu Talagbusao was a very tough opponent to deal with, especially as he is a god. However, that whole exposition dump he did and his villain speech was a bit lengthy, and while I knew there was a lot at stake here, I felt that it could have been built up more. While the emotional pay off was good, with Trese realizing that her father had always encouraged her to shape her own destiny and make her own choices, and with her helping the Kambal remember that she and them are more family than them and their birth father (Talagbusao); the stakes didn’t feel that high. Maybe it’s also because they were just fighting him, or maybe it’s because they only had a few allies with them that didn’t make it feel like the final battle that decides everything. My honest hope is that we’ll get more seasons, and maybe even bigger villains, with bigger things at stake. (Again, I’m not too familiar yet with the comics, so those that have read it, please do enlighten me!)
With regards to what Talagbusao told her, I think that there might have been some truth to it, but I’m not sure as to what really happened. (I guess I’ll read the comics to find out!)
As for the ending, I did think it was neat that instead of defeating him, Trese decided to strand him in a bottomless void for the time being, which makes me think that he will have to come back one day, even bigger, stronger, and with more things at stake. I also liked the fact that at the end of it all, she ended up coming out of the portal near the Balete Tree where she underwent her trials, and to which she has a strong emotional connection to. I do think that she was able to return to Manila and rebuild Cafe Diabolical what with that post credits scene of a very Chinese looking ghost looking for her.
I really hope that there will be more seasons, as I do believe that “Trese” and its stories have only just scratched the surface!
How did you like “Trese”? Let me know in the comments below!
Image Source/s: Screenshots from Netflix